The Perfect Red


Oh, the search for the perfect red nail polish. Like the search for the perfect love, or the perfect fry-up, it truly is a life’s work. It has obsessed me for years. Obviously my early forays into nail-painting (my mum doing my toes for ten minutes when I was 6, before taking it off in case I got fancy ideas) were led merely by the desire for COLOUR. I didn’t really care what colour. Then when I started doing my nails properly in my late teens I considered myself too young for proper red nails. My then-elevated sense of self-worth positioned me somehow ‘above’ the pedestrian reds and corals that mums wore, and I preferred to paddle in the shallows of Hardy Candy shades or grim pearlescent things.

But then time passed.

I became more obsessed. And then even more obsessed.

For a while I thought Essie’s Really Red would tide me over. I was wrong. Largely because it’s quite pink. Throughout this quest, there was always one nail icon I had in mind: Dot Cotton.


Now THOSE are red nails

Whatever is thrown at Dot, she always has immaculate nails. The woman has had an extraordinary life. But throughout it all she has maintained a steadfast 1940s red on her fingertips. It’s not flashy, it’s never chipped, it is essentially DOT. I love her.

Thus, my obsession grew. Finding the perfect red was not enough! I wanted Dot Cotton’s red. I asked Sophy Robson if she had any contacts who might know, and I put out a plea via Twitter for any contacts on Eastenders. And lo, Twitter came good. I was given the Series Make-up Artist’s details. She is called Karen. She thinks I’m a bit weird.

I called her up, explaining that I was a contributing editor at Elle (I am!) and that I would like to know what colour Dot wore, if at all possible.

‘What a bizarre request’ she said. And then, WITHOUT HESITATION, she continued. ‘There is not one brand. It’s always a deep, classic red…’

‘Yes! I called it World War 2 red!’ I interjected.

‘…but it’s never from the same brand. Whatever is to hand’.

And there we have it. There is no Dot Cotton Red. It is whatever is … to hand. Of course! Dot doesn’t have time for manicures, online shopping or faffing about in Selfridges talking to over-scented sales girls with Botoxed armpits. She just goes red, she stays simple, she keeps it classy.

Inspired by this new, liberating knowledge, and a look I had had at this post earlier in the weekend, I found myself wandering into Superdrug on Sunday afternoon. I might have had quite a big glass of wine at lunch, and I might slightly have had that feeling when you just want a new thing. Before I knew it, I was in front of the Revlon counter. And there before my eyes was one last bottle of Revlon Red. The colour of my childhood. And I just know Dot has worn it. It cost £4.17. I came home an immediately applied. It has not chipped.


My Perfect Red

It makes me feel like Dot Cotton and Grace Kelly and Cindy Crawford and My Mum At Her Best. It’s my perfect red. I hope you find yours.



3 Responses to “The Perfect Red”

  1. 1 iamjamesward

    I have little to no interest in nail varnish (varnish or polish? I think this still has to be addressed), but this is a magnificent blog post. In its own way, it’s morally uplifting.

  2. Everyone has their own Perfect Red. Even if they don’t paint their nails x

  1. 1 New to nail varnish and already in the red « Ribbon and Rope

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